The cake was there for Manoj Tiwary, but it wasn’t really a cakewalk for his players.
The cake-cutting ceremony at the end of play on Day III to celebrate captain Manoj Tiwary’s 33rd birthday painted a happy picture of Team Bengal.
The hosts are still in control of their Ranji Trophy Elite Group B match against Madhya Pradesh, here, at the Eden. But the Bengal bowlers had a hard day in office, sweated it out all through the day, and all that they earned were five wickets.
In reply to Bengal’s first innings total of 510 for nine declared, Madhya Pradesh, at stumps on Wednesday, were 254 for five. The visitors still trail by 256 runs and Bengal are poised to take the first innings lead, and three points with it.
Barring a cricketing catastrophe, the match is surely headed for a draw.
But the question is, are three points from a home match against an average team good enough? Especially, when the Ranji Trophy group phase is a matter of points. The format this year is such that only five sides will progress after a combined evaluation of Groups A and B, which have a total of 18 teams. Points, each one of them, will therefore carry a lot of significance.
The fact is that both the teams misread the pitch at the Eden. While Madhya Pradesh misjudged the batting-friendly nature of the 22 yards and allowed Bengal to bat first after winning the toss, the home team didn’t realise that playing an extra bowler on such a dull wicket was necessary if they were keen on getting maximum points from the match. An extra bowler could have added more variety to the attack.
At the end of proceedings on Wednesday, Madhya Pradesh’s Yash Dubey was batting on 20 and giving him company was Ankit Sharma on nine. For Bengal, there were two wickets in the morning session, one post lunch and finally two after the tea break.
Resuming the day at 15 without loss, Madhya Pradesh suffered an early setback when Aryaman Birla (12) fell, caught behind off Ashok Dinda, with just seven more runs added to the team total. Dinda, the tireless warrior of Bengal cricket, got the second wicket to fall on the day as well. Ankit Dane (38) too was caught behind by wicketkeeper Vivek Singh.
With the visitors at 65 for two, it looked like Bengal could force further inroads. But that wasn’t the case.
Rajat Patidar and Naman Ojha dropped anchor. It didn’t help that Patidar was dropped by Amir Gani off Dinda’s bowling at square leg early in his innings. Off-spinner Gani, however, made up for that lapse by dismissing Patidar (49).
The Ojha-Shubham Sharma pair was the most successful partnership of the day. They shared an 88-run stand. It was part-timer Anustup Majumdar who dismissed both Ojha (74) and Subham (45) in the day’s final session, which ended 14 overs short with bad light stopping play.
Bengal were probably lucky to see the end of Ojha’s gritty resistance. He was given out caught at forward short leg by umpire Sadashiv Iyer, but it seemed the ball missed his bat. At the end of the day’s play, Dinda said: “I have no complaints about the wicket. We need to bowl better.”
But even “better” bowling is unlikely to earn Bengal more than three points from this match.
1st Innings 510/9 decl.
1st Innings (Overnight 15/0)
A. Birla c Vivek b Dinda 12
A. Dane c Vivek b Dinda 38
R. Patidar b Gani 49
N. Ojha c Ghosh b Majumdar 74
S. Sharma c Tiwary b Majumdar 45
Y. Dubey batting 20
A. Sharma batting 9
Extras (b-4, lb-1, nb-1, w-1) 7
Total (5 wickets; 86 overs) 254
Fall of wickets: 1/22, 2/65, 3/126, 4/214, 5/223
Bowling: Dinda 18-6-42-2, Porel 21-4-71-0, Amit 17-2-54-0, Gani 21-1-59-1, Majumdar 8-0-20-2, Tiwary 1-0-3-0